I’ve been married nearly a decade, but still vividly remember being single all through college. I remember having one friend after another pair off, wondering when it would be my turn.
I heaped so much shame on myself for not being able to find satisfaction in God alone. Everyone at Bible Study told me that’s what needed to happen before I’d be blessed with a husband.
It’s only now that I can see how those years of waiting for marriage were laying groundwork for another kind of waiting. Waiting for a baby.
But I’m not naive enough to think that all my waiting will be complete once I hold my child in my arms (Lord willing). There will always be something else I want or think I need or am white-knuckling my way through, in the hope of some kind of payout. Insert faith, receive spouse, baby, whatever.
But it just doesn’t work that way. I will always be looking away from the present moment to some vague idea of what lies on the other side. And I’ll never know if I’ve reached it, because the human heart is always searching for the next best thing.
It’s really heaven that we’re waiting for
Christians often put contentment in God alone as the ultimate goal, which is not a bad thing. That’s certainly the ideal we strive for. But in this broken world, we can’t avoid disappointment.
At the core of every loss or heartache is a reminder that the thing we’re really longing for is heaven. Completion and fulfillment here, on the other side of it, is simply not possible. A prolonged wait, an unanswered “How long, O Lord?” is expected.
Learning to wait productively
I vividly remember 22-year-old SB sitting at a corner table at the campus Starbucks, furiously writing in her journal about trying – and failing – to be content in God alone so I could somehow “earn” a spouse.
It’s not wrong to mourn not having good things. Marriage and family are blessings. It can be holy to mourn not having them because that grief rightly acknowledges their value.
I wish someone had told me back then that I didn’t have to learn to be content with my singleness. However, it is more than possible to find contentment while in singleness. We can hold our sorrow in one hand, and joy in our friends, in good books, in fluffy kittens, in worship, in so many other things, in the other hand.
Content while waiting
I’m applying that same principle to my current state of childlessness. I mourn the baby girl we lost in March. But I have joy in my marriage today that didn’t seem possible a few years back.
I have joy in my good health that was once a trainwreck.
I have joy in books, in snuggly cats who sit in my lap while reading those books with a cup of French-pressed coffee (have you experienced the joy of being chosen by a cat?).
I have joy in my church, in my small group, and in my community of friends (especially those whose love language is ridiculous memes and puns sent by text multiple times a day).
I have real contentment that coexists in uneasy harmony with lingering grief. I pray to carry them both well.